At most community colleges, students who don’t do well on placement tests must take pre-college classes in their weak subject — math, writing or reading. These classes can feel like a repeat of high school, and they can greatly extend the time and money it takes to finish a vocational or academic degree. Some students get discouraged or spend so much money on the remedial classes that they don’t have enough left to finish a credential.I've been on record as opposing the college-first mind-set that turns the shop class into a dumping ground for burnouts. And thus, even where there is good news, there is evidence that Washington State is paying for high school twice.
The program pairs a basic-skills teacher like Lindberg with a subject expert, such as Keith Smith, the machining-program instructor at Shoreline. The I-BEST approach is being used in academic transfer classes, too, for students working on associate or bachelor’s degrees.That may not be a bug. Businesses, particularly in cyclical industries, might be reluctant to hire apprentices who will be raided away by other businesses, a classic appropriability problem. But the benefit-cost ratio seems favorable.
Because it uses two instructors instead of one, I-BEST costs the community colleges almost twice as much as a conventional class. The college bears the extra expense, not the student.
But a national study showed that I-BEST programs produce long-term economic benefits that outweigh the added costs. And a state study suggested that I-BEST benefits the entire state because the graduates get better jobs, paying more in taxes over a lifetime.And students see, immediately, the applicability of the math they're learning.
When algebra for machinists is taught just before the students work on a metal-cutting project, they immediately apply what they’ve just learned, reinforcing it.The apprentices will also discover, quickly enough, that "close enough" has an entirely different meaning on the shop floor, or in the pharmacy.
The pilot projects also showed that colleges could often accelerate the speed at which remedial math and writing are taught, just filling the gaps in students’ skills rather than requiring them to repeat whole classes.
Kerr also has interviewed hundreds of I-BEST students in his role as I-BEST director and dean at three different state colleges. Many said I-BEST was the first time their teachers had made a direct connection between academic work and job skills.